By: Luka Dickson

What should an expert witness do during a construction claim court appearance? The role of an expert witness in any construction dispute is to provide a non-partisan opinion from a position of authority on elements of the dispute. This usually involves detailing the costs of all items within the claim; to assess an appropriate compensation and payment if any is deserved from one party to another. This will all be detailed in a thorough expert witness report supplied to the court tribunal by the expert.  

When invited to a construction dispute, it is essential that the expert witness remains impartial and follows the appropriate code of conduct. Despite being hired by one party involved in the dispute, the expert witness must not play favourites. Instead, all relevant evidence must be taken into consideration within the expert witness report.

Cross-examination of the expert witness

During the tribunal, the expert witness may often be cross-examined by the judge and parties involved in the claim. Here it is essential that the expert witness has a clear understanding of the case and is knowledgeable on all detailed elements. This is why all expert witnesses must be qualified quantity surveyors. If a party believes an item or point has been overlooked or dismissed within the expert witness report, they may examine the witness’s decision within the cross-examination. Any conclusion within the expert witness report must have thorough reasoning and evidence to back it up. However, the cross-examination may provide an opportunity for the expert witness to explain themselves further.

Prior to the construction dispute tribunal.

In the days leading up to the tribunal, the requirements of the expert witness may become more intense. Witnesses may be asked to provide additional information, respond to requests, and produce additional documents with time sensitivity. The set of assumptions the expert witness works from may change with short notice as new evidence is brought to light. Therefore, the expert witness is expected to be flexible in the days leading up to the construction dispute tribunal.

Appearance at a construction dispute tribunal

An expert witness should present professionally at any court or tribunal appearance. They are hired due to their opinion holding gravitas and expertise, therefore deserving respect. In any site visits, it is expected for safety equipment such as boots and a hard hat to be worn; especially considering the nature of some complaints suggesting that the construction is not up to a satisfactory standard.

At court appearances, the expert witness should bring a copy of the final report and all supporting documents such as calculations. These can be referenced or referred to in cross-examination. The expert witness should refer to their report for evidence frequently throughout the tribunal.

Rules and requirements for cross-examination

The expert witness must answer all questions asked by the barrister during cross-examination truthfully and directly. Often a question may be asked that the expert witness has not been briefed on. If it is not relevant, the court will steer the conversation back to matters of relevancy. As expert witnesses are impartial, all client questions must be answered even if they involve exposing something the client is trying to hide. There are many difficult concepts regarding quantity surveying that a judge may not be properly familiarised with. Therefore, these concepts must be explained clearly so the judge can interpret and understand them.

It is also important for the expert witness to answer the question appropriately. Answering what the barrister has said, not what they should have said. Repeating the question is appropriate if misheard or misunderstood. The attitude should be polite and answers succinct and formal. No interrupting or cutting off. With that being said – the expert witness should be given plenty of time to answer the question appropriately. Once transcribed, the answer can’t be changed.

Estimating Services in Sydney

At Accent Estimating we take pride in our detailed and reliable budget estimating services for construction projects. Our team of experienced quantity surveyors will make sure all parties involved in the construction process get a fair deal and have a streamlined experience.

If you would like to find out more about our estimating services available in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane, call us at 0413 953 869 or fill out the contact form on our website.